Harry sat between his two best friends, doing his best to position himself so they couldn't really see each other. The two of them were at odds. Ron, stubborn as always, maintained that Snape was a horrible, bitter-tongued git who would never change regardless of his new-found relation to Harry, or anyone else, for that matter. Hermione claimed that Snape had, in fact, already started to change, that he had on more than one occasion shown concern for Harry, and that Harry really ought to give him a second chance. Harry, no longer having any idea which side of the issue he was on, kept his mouth shut and hoped they would just drop the matter entirely.
The truth was that Harry was utterly confused. In a sense, both his friends were right. Snape was still rather brusque, still full of sharp retorts, and still quick make sure Harry knew when he was messing up. At the same time, all of this seemed almost... tempered, as though the black-clothed professor was making a conscious effort to contain his acerbity.
Granted, Harry might have had a better idea of whether this was actually true or not if he hadn't spent the last week and a half avoiding the man. This, of course, had afforded quite a bit of awkward shuffling and hastily diverted gazes. He hadn't even realized he was doing it until Hermione pointed it out (thus leading to her latest quarrel with Ron).
What was he supposed to do, though? Harry didn't have the slightest clue how he ought to act around the man after his last detention. Snape had given him a note excusing him for being out after curfew! He'd allowed him to rewrite his essay for partial credit with a warning – a warning – not to neglect his homework again. The boy didn't know how to react to this new Snape. In fact, he had added possession as one of the possible explanations for the Potions Master's apparent change in behavior.
"Harry, is there anything you need from Hogsmeade?" Hermione's question broke him from his musing. She looked at him expectantly, while on Harry's other side Ron scowled, annoyed that he hadn't thought to ask first.
"Not really," Harry answered. "I could probably use some more ink, I guess." He frowned thoughtfully, trying to think of any other supplies he might need before end of term. Once again, he cursed his uncle's stubbornness for refusing to sign his permission slip to go into Hogsmeade with the other students, third year and up. Not wanting to think about the Dursleys, he pushed them from his mind. He then wondered if perhaps Snape would sign it, before dismissing that thought almost as quickly. He'd just have to suffer.
"Well, I'll get you some ink and whatever else I think you might need, then," Hermione declared, pushing back her plate and rising to her feet.
"I'll get you some stuff from Honeydukes and Zonko's," Ron promised, also standing – though, this was probably more out of habit than anything else.
"Thanks," Harry told them both. "Have fun."
"Sure thing, mate," Ron told him, at the same Hermione said, "I wish you could come, Harry!" The bushy-haired girl frowned reprovingly at the redhead, as the boy pretended they hadn't just talked over one another. Even so, they left the Great Hall walking more or less side-by-side. Harry shook his head at their antics, hoping that they didn't end up killing each other without him around to mediate.
Harry turned back to his breakfast, intent on finishing it even though he was already feeling a bit full. He picked at the remaining food for a bit, wondering how Ron always managed to put away so much, before giving it up as a lost cause. Having gone hungry far too often in the past, he hated to waste food, but sometimes his eyes were simply too big for his stomach. Rising to his feet, he left the Great Hall.
The boy wandered along the corridor, trying to think of something to do while everyone else was in Hogsmeade. His feet carried him up to the third floor, where he found himself counting flagstones. He was just making his way past a rather odd statue of a humpbacked, one-eyed witch, when he was abruptly grabbed by the arm and pulled into an empty classroom. Harry yelped in surprise.
"Blimey, Harry!" George exclaimed. "No need to yell."
Fred leaned out into the hallway, looking quickly left and right. Satisfied that no one had heard, he stepped into the classroom, closing the door behind him. "Were you trying to make someone hear us?" he directed at the younger boy.
"You startled me!" Harry protested, in response to which Fred and George exchanged a smirk. "I thought you'd already gone to Hogsmeade?"
"We did," said Fred a bit smugly.
"But we came back," George stated.
"Because we have something we want to give you, Harry," Fred explained, pulling a tattered square of blank parchment from his robes. "This!"
"The secret to our success. Ordinarily, we'd keep it to ourselves-"
"-but we noticed that you missed out on the last couple Hogsmeade trips."
"No doubt, that git of an uncle of yours refused to sign your permission slip," growled George, eyes narrowing at the mention of the man. The twins didn't know a lot about Vernon Dursley, but what they had heard left them with an understandably poor impression.
Harry nodded, confirming this assumption.
"So, you see," continued Fred, "we've decided your need is greater than ours."
"We know it by heart, anyway, so we don't really need it."
"Think of it as an early Christmas present, from us."
"You're giving me a bit of old parchment as a Christmas present?" Harry asked, raising a brow.
George snorted. "'A bit of old parchment', he says!"
"I'd say he's miserably uninformed, George," Fred shook his head sadly. "I think we'd better show him."
"I think you're right, Fred," agreed his brother. He brandished his wand and touched its tip to the parchment before clearly declaring, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Black lines spread out from the point where wood met paper as though the ink was being drawn from George's wand. They spread and stretched, crisscrossing one another until they covered the entire parchment. As the map of Hogwarts castle and grounds reached its completion, words in curling green script appeared across the top of the page:
Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makersare proud to present
THE MARAUDER'S MAP
Harry watched in astonishment until George pulled his wand away. The black-haired boy leaned closer to examine the tiny moving dots, each of which were labeled. They were people! Dumbledore could be seen pacing his office, while Trelawney sat in her tower. Even Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, and Peeves could be seen. And that wasn't all...
"Passageways," Fred stated proudly, tracing one with his finger, "all leading straight to Hogsmeade."
"Don't bother with these four," George told him, "Filch knows about them."
"This one, either – it caved in last winter – and we doubt anyone's ever used this one, as the Whomping Willow is planted over the entrance," Fred pointed to each.
"We've used this one dozens of times, though," said his brother, pointing out the remaining passage, "it'll take you right into the cellar of Honeydukes, and as you can no doubt see, its entrance is right outside this room, through that one-eyed madam's hump."
"Where did you get this?" Harry inquired dazedly.
"Well..." began George, "we might have borrowed-"
"-freed it from the clutches of Filch in our first year," concluded Fred. "It has taught us ever so much. Good ol' Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs!"
"Our heroes! Oh, and one more thing, Harry."
"You mustn't forget to wipe it clean when you're finished."
"Otherwise, anyone can read it," Fred warned. "You just tap it and say 'Mischief Managed' to make it go blank."
"That said, we really must be on our way," said George.
"Right-o, George," his twin agreed, then winked. "Later, Harry." And with that, the two redheads left, smirking quite proudly to themselves.
Harry stared at the marvelous map, hardly believing his eyes. After a moment, he decided to grab his invisibility cloak before trying the passageway. Practically running up to his dorm, he hurried back down to the statue, careful to make sure no one else was around before looking to the map for directions.
Grinning to himself, Harry tapped the stone with his wand three times. "Dissendium!"
Harry sat staring at his feet, his shoulders tense, looking very much like a child sent to the headmaster's office... which happened to be the case. His trip to Hogsmeade had been rather successful – he even got to lob a few snowballs at a confused Malfoy and company. Hermione scolded him, of course, for breaking rules, but Ron had thought it was brilliant, even though he felt his brothers ought to have given him the map, instead.
Everything had gone off without a hitch, in fact, until a brief moment in which he failed to pay attention to his surroundings. Hermione and Ron had gone into an exceptionally crowded shop while Harry elected to wait for them outside. He was staring at something in the store window across the street, when someone walked right into him. To Harry's dismay, it was Professor McGonagall. He could have kicked himself.
So, now, he sat in Dumbledore's office, having just endured chastisement for his misbehavior. Harry couldn't help but think that it was a bit unfair. After all, it wasn't his fault his uncle was a horrid git who'd sooner die than do anything that might make his life pleasant. Why couldn't one of the teachers sign his bloody permission slip? Then, he wouldn't have to sneak out.
"... Professor McGonagall will be in charge of your punishment," the headmaster concluded.
"Yes, sir," Harry responded meekly, then couldn't help but ask, "W-what about my invisibility cloak?" The boy didn't expect he would get it back anytime soon, probably not before the end of the school year, but he figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.
Never would Harry have anticipated the reply he got, however.
"Your father has it."
Harry stared. Several thoughts fought for precedence, before his mind finally settled on one. "You know."
"I learned it was a possibility shortly before Professor Snape did," the man replied calmly. "I felt it was best to let him inform you as he saw fit, though, I hear that Madame Pomfrey may have interfered in the matter."
"Does everyone know about this?" the boy demanded, annoyed at the thought of once more being the last to know something about himself.
"As far as I know for certain, it is just the four of us, though, I rather suspect you have told Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger."
Calming at this, Harry nodded, as his mind went back to the original statement. "He has my cloak."
"When he learned it had been confiscated, Severus asked to keep for you," Dumbledore explained. "Seeing as he is your father, it seemed only reasonable to allow him to do so." The man's blue eyes remained fixed on the boy's face, gauging his reaction.
"Yes, sir," Harry murmured, as his mind labored to internalize the horrifying news.
"If there is nothing else, my boy, there is still much that I must do today," the headmaster told him. "Therefore, you are dismissed. Don't forget to report to Professor McGonagall's office after supper."
"Yes, sir," the boy nodded yet again, rising to his feet and leaving the office. He made his way down the corridor, mind a whirl. Snape had his invisibility cloak. Furthermore, he had asked to take it and Dumbledore had let him just because he was Harry's biological father. Snape had his invisibility cloak!
Suddenly, Harry was furious. The Gryffindor stalked to the dungeons and no one who witnessed the scowl upon his face would have believed he looked least bit like his adoptive father. James Potter had never worn such a black expression. A first-year Hufflepuff let out a startled squeak as he stormed past, but he paid her no heed, his mind focused on his destination, fury building with every step.
Snape looked up as the door to the Potions classroom slammed open. No other sound immediately followed, so the Potions Master stepped out from his adjoining office to investigate. Harry stood in the doorway, looking positively livid. I bet I know what this is about, the professor thought dryly.
"I want it back," Harry declared without preamble.
The older man leaned against the desk he kept in his classroom, folding his arms across his chest and raising a brow sardonically. "Oh?" he kept his tone disinterested. "And what would that be?"
"My invisibility cloak!" the boy snapped, stalking forward until he was even with the front row of tables. "It belonged to my – to... It's mine, and I want it back!"
"It is my understanding that you lost your cloak because you were caught using it to break the rules," Snape informed him briskly. "In light of that fact, I will be holding onto it until I feel you are responsible enough not to do so, which likely won't be until you reach your majority."
Harry's fists clenched at his sides and he muttered something too low for Snape to catch.
"What was that?"
"I said," he looked up, eyes flashing angrily, "'What right do you have to take my stuff'?"
"Mind your tone, boy," Snape warned.
"Why should I?" Harry shouted back. "Why should I do anything you tell me to? So, you're my father by blood – BIG DEAL! You're no father to me. You've treated me like crap since the moment I stepped into this school. And why? I never did anything to you, you just despised me because you thought I was James Potter's son! Well, I wish I was his son! I was happier thinking I was related to him. You're nothing but a greasy, bullying ol' git and I hate you! I don't want to be related to you. I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!"
At the end of this tirade, Harry turned to one of the front tables and gave it a shove. It toppled over, taking all the tables and stools on that side of the room with it. Moving to the other side, he repeated the action, resulting in the same domino effect, with the exception that the last table slammed into one of the bookshelves, causing half of its contents to join the mess on the floor. Finally, Harry stood facing his father, panting as much from exertion (the tables were quite heavy) as from yelling at the top of his lungs.
Severus Snape watched all this without blinking an eye, his expression dispassionate as he waited for the boy's breathing to begin to slow. "Are you quite finished?" he asked after a moment.
Harry knew that tone. He looked about the wrecked classroom, as though belatedly realizing what he had done. Snape was going to kill him. No one spoke to the man the way he'd just done, let alone trash his classroom right before his eyes. Maybe if he apologized... But no – Harry wasn't going to apologize. Harry wasn't sorry in the least.
"Yes, sir." He lifted his chin defiantly.
Before he knew what was happening, the Potions Master had him by the shoulders and was propelling him forward. Genuine terror surged through the boy only to be replaced by utter confusion a second later as he found himself with his nose in a corner.